1999 Volkswagen Eurovan Winnebago Camper Van volkswagen car test drives
This is your last chance to buy Volkswagen’s Eurovan Camper Van – it will be discontinued later this year. The front-wheel-drive, V6-powered camper van has a tilt-up top, sleeping accomodations for four, fridge, stove, sink, furnace, and cupboards. Suggested retail price is $52,749.



Last year for VW Camper Van. End of an era?

From the 1960′s-era VW Microbus ‘pop-top’ camper van – to the Vanagon-based Westfalia in the 70′s and 80′s – to the current Eurovan-based Winnebago Camper Van – Volkswagen’s camperized mini-van has occupied a unique place in the hearts of budget-minded recreation-seekers for almost forty years.

For most of that time, the VW Camper was ‘the little camper that could…’ Though relatively underpowered, noisy, and sensitive to strong side winds, the VW camper van was a home-away-from-home for weekend getaways and summer vacations – yet was small enough, and fuel-efficient enough to be driven to work on a daily basis. It was, perhaps, the world’s first CUV (camper/utility van), because it could be both a passenger vehicle and a recreation vehicle, saving owners the cost of buying two separate vehicles.

Over the years, however, the camper has gotten bigger, heavier, and more expensive. In 1992, the bigger front-wheel-drive, five cylinder, front-engined Eurovan Westfalia Camper replaced the rear-wheel-drive, rear-engined four cylinder Vanagon Westfalia. Then in 1996, the short-wheelbase Eurovan Camper was discontinued, leaving the long-wheelbase model. Its 130 inch wheelbase allowed more interior room but its overall length of 5189 mm (204.3 in.) and curb weight of 2316 kg (5106 lb.) made it a little too large to be used on a daily basis in a city enviroment. And by 1999, the price had risen to $52,749.

So it’s not a complete surprise to me that Volkswagen has decided to discontinue the camper van in Canada at the end of 1999. RV buyers have a lot of options in the $50,000 price range.

Still, the Eurovan Camper Van is smaller and more nimble than most motorhomes, uses less fuel, and is easier to drive. As a small motorhome for a retired couple travelling the country, it has some advantages.

The Eurovan’s attractive, camperized interior is done in a simple grey and white laminate finish, and makes excellent use of space. There are two fold-out tables, numerous cupboards and drawers for food and clothing, a two-burner propane stove, stainless-steel sink with electric faucet, 12,000 BTU forced-air furnace with thermostat, and a fridge which runs on propane, battery power, or external current. All the windows have pull-down shades or privacy curtains.

There’s also a 12 gallon fresh water tank with a rear-mounted spray nozzle, an eight gallon ‘grey’ water tank with a standard flushing outlet, a 5.9 gallon propane tank, and an auxillary 130 amp battery with auxillary charger.

The only things missing are a toilet and shower.

1999 Volkswagen Eurovan Winnebago Camper Van volkswagen car test drives
The pop-up fibreglass top hinges from the rear, and allows passengers to stand up when cooking or washing the dishes. The top requires considerable effort to lift, but it can be accomplished by an average-sized adult. The top level has a built-in foam mattress which sleeps two people, but since there’s no ladder to climb up, passengers must grab the roof and step on the front seatback – not very dignified. The pop-up top features canvas walls with zip-up windows and mosquito nets.

1999 Volkswagen Eurovan Winnebago Camper Van volkswagen car test drives
On the right side of the van is a single sliding door with a very large opening. A two-person rear bench seat, which converts to a bed, is standard and an optional removeable center bench seat is also available. In addition, a new one-person center seat is offered this year because the center bench obstructs the fridge and cupboard doors.

The Eurovan’s standard, and only powerplant is a 140 horsepower 2.8 litre V6, (the same engine used in the Golf VR6, Jetta VR6, and Passat VR6), but with a little less horsepower and a little more torque. This engine has sufficient power to maintain a steady velocity up long hills, and enough low-end torque to accelerate briskly from a traffic light. The V6 engine is also surprisingly quiet and smooth when compared with previous five and four cylinder powerplants. At a steady cruising speed of 100 km/h, engine speed is just 2600 rpm. Fuel consumption is reasonable for a 5000 lb vehicle: 16.5 litres per 100 kilometres (14 mpg) in city driving, and 11.8 litres per 100 kilometres (18 mpg) on the highway.

A four-speed automatic transmission is standard and offers smoother shifts than the three-speed automatics of previous generation campers.

1999 Volkswagen Eurovan Winnebago Camper Van volkswagen car test drives
Eurovan Campers come with many luxury items as standard equipment, including air conditioning, power windows with ‘pinch’ protection, power door locks (including the rear hatch), cruise control, power heated mirrors, front and rear heaters, AM/FM/cassette stereo, intermittent wipers, and a rear wiper/washer and defroster.

Standard safety features include two front airbags, three-point safety belts for four, five or six passengers, anti-lock brakes, and a child-lock on the sliding rear door.

Warranty coverage includes a standard 2 year/40,000 kilometre warranty and a 5 year/80,000 kilometre powertrain warranty. In addition, Winnebago Industries (which converts the Eurovan to a camper) provides a 2 year/24,000 mile warranty on the camper parts and appliances.

For those recreation-seekers looking for an RV that’s smaller and easier to drive than a large motorhome, but not necessarily to be used on a daily basis, the Eurovan Camper Van is a good compromise.

But remember, they’ll be gone by the end of this year.


Technical Data:

1999 VW Eurovan Winnebago Camper Van
Base price $52,749
Type 3-door, 4/5/6 passenger camper van
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 2.8 litre V6, SOHC, 12 valves
Horsepower 140 @ 4500 rpm
Torque 177 @ 3000 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic
Curb weight 2316 kg (5106 lb.)
Wheelbase 3320 mm (130.7 in.)
Length 5189 mm (204.3 in.)
Width 1840 mm (72.4 in.)
Height 2032 mm (80.0 in.)
Tires 205/65R-15
Fuel consumption City: 16.5 l/100 km (14 mpg)
  Hwy: 11.8 l/100 km (18 mpg)
Warranty Basic 2 yrs/40,000 kms
  Powertrain 5 yrs/80,000 kms




About Greg Wilson

Greg Wilson is a Vancouver-based automotive journalist and contributor to Autos.ca. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).